Lady in Red by Alexa Zhang, 9 (Los Altos, CA)
illustrating “Windsong” by Emma McKinny, 13 (Old Fort, NC)
Published in Stone Soup October 2019
A note from William Rubel
I had written my letter to you for the week in the lobby of a Tokyo hotel where Jane Levi (you know her as one of our Newsletter writers) and I were finishing breakfast and waiting to leave to take our flight back to San Francisco. I had wanted to share something of our adventures in Japan, but then, on the train to the airport I re-read the current issue, October 2019. The last story in the issue, “Windsong,” by Emma McKinny, along with its illustration, “Lady in Red,” by Alexa Zhang left me speechless. Both story and illustration are just incredible. I can’t write about both the illustration and the story as the Newsletter would be so long most of you would give up, so I will concentrate on the story. But, please, spend time with painting as well.
The story, “Windsong”, is a masterful piece of prose that shakes me to the core. The prose style is varied, the protagonist’s viewpoint as a child insider at the opera is unique, and the author’s command of language is unusually strong. She expresses very complex and meaningful ideas and feelings with grace and ease. It is a powerful personal narrative, and we say more about personal narratives in the details of our new contest, in partnership with Young Inklings, which is discussed below. It also makes great use of framing which is the subject of this week’s activity.
“Windsong” is about going to a performance of Dr. Atomic, an opera by John Adams with libretto by Peter Sellers. Her father is the lead singer. You can use your research skills to get information on the actual performance and its reviews online, but I want to focus on one element of the story — the way in which Emma frames her narrative. Framing is, then, also going to be this week’s writing project.
The basic history you need to know is that the United States invented and tested the first atomic bomb in Los Alamos, New Mexico during World War II. The bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were developed in Los Alamos. These bombs ended the war with Japan. Japan surrendered after they were dropped. Thousands upon thousands upon thousands of civilizations were killed by these weapons, whole sections of the two cities that were the victims of these bombs were obliterated. These bombs gave humans god-like powers which J. Robert Openhiemer, director of the lab, and the Dr. in the opera’s title, Dr. Atomic, understood. He quickly became concerned about the consequences of his invention. You also need to know that Los Alamos is visible from Santa Fe and this is especially true at night when its lights glow from the mountain ridge where it is located.
Back to framing! The story takes place in the Santa Fe Opera House, a fabulous outdoor theater that sits under the distant gaze of Los Alamos, the place where the bomb-making that is the center of the opera’s story took place. With this in mind, please read the first paragraph.
Now, please read the story.
And, now, please focus on the last three paragraphs. Emma has gone through a huge emotional experience during the Opera. Those of you who attend operas, ballet, and traditional theater may have experienced these deep emotional moments. My daughter has leaned over to me during ballet performances to whisper, “Dada, don’t cry until the curtain goes down.” And then there is the clapping. And the lights go back up. And then you have to get up from your seat and drive home behaving normally with this deeply emotional experience still inside you, “turmoil boiling in the pit of” ones stomach, as Emma puts it. Then, she does something brilliant. She gives feeling and emotion to the wind which blows through the Santa Fe Opera house — it is an open air theater — and picks up her feelings. She whispers to the wind the same phrase she had called out to her father in the beginning, thus transferring the art of the opera to nature. Let the wind howl, like a wolf, adding its voice to the power of theater.
You can read and follow this week’s activity here. Please take a look, try framing, and send us what you produce.
Until next week,
Contests, Partnership & Project News
We are very excited to announce that Stone Soup is partnering with Society of Young Inklings in our very first nonfiction contest. You have until December 15, 2019 to write and perfect your personal narratives with the help and support of Society of Young Inklings, which has created instructional games and activities to help you write and perfect your pieces! Finally, the first 150 submitters will receive personalized feedback letters from the writers at Young Inklings. We can’t wait to read your work!
Highlights from the past week online
Don’t miss the latest content from our Book Reviewers and Young Bloggers at Stonesoup.com!
We posted another piece in blogger Marco Lu’s series on science fiction. Check out “Steam and Gleam: A Look at Steampunk” to learn more about the well known sub-genre within science fiction.
Our Spring fundraiser, to widen Stone Soup‘s access to marginalised communities, is still open for donations!
This campaign is to help support us in providing a new benefit for Public Libraries: free submissions for all of their patrons. We want to enable children across the country who cannot have their own subscription not only to read Stone Soup, but also submit their work for free. When you purchase one of the last remaining copies of our archival “Special Navajo Issue” from March/April 1989, all proceeds will be put toward helping Stone Soup reach marginalized communities.
You can donate to this campaign via the link below, or visit our store to purchase a copy of our 1989 Special Navajo Issue.
From Stone Soup, October 2019
By Emma McKinny, 13 (Old Fort, NC)
Illustrated by Alexa Zhang, 9 (Los Altos, CA)
A sweet summer wind tore through the desert, flinging dust and small rocks into the night air. Flying over fields of cacti, across Los Alamos, and finally making it to the open back of the Santa Fe opera house, it tousled the hair of the many stagehands, all dressed in black. It breathed life into the bells on the ceremonial clothing of the three different indigenous tribes that had been invited to perform in the show, and as I stepped out of the car that my father had driven us in, it stroked a gentle hand across my face.
* * *
“It’s beautiful . . .” my Grandma Laura breathed, looking up at the magnificent structure that towered above us, with its rafters, all shaped like the sails on a boat, lit up with a warm laughing glow. My face curved into a soft smile as I too gazed up at the familiar building I had used as my second home that summer.
“It is, isn’t it,” I mumbled.
“I have to go get into costume now,” my father called to us. I nodded, a grin starting to appear on my face as I remembered the uptight suit Dad had to wear for the opera. Grandma beamed..…/MORE
Stone Soup is published by Children’s Art Foundation-Stone Soup Inc., a 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit organization registered
in the United States of America, EIN: 23-7317498.
Stone Soup‘s Advisors: Abby Austin, Mike Axelrod, Annabelle Baird, Jem Burch, Evelyn Chen, Juliet Fraser, Zoe Hall, Montanna Harling, Alicia & Joe Havilland, Lara Katz, Rebecca Kilroy, Christine Leishman, Julie Minnis, Jessica Opolko, Tara Prakash, Denise Prata, Logan Roberts, Emily Tarco, Rebecca Ramos Velasquez, Susan Wilky.